Using Charity as a Front

I have the utmost respect for charities, the people who run them, and the people of the community who generously raise money to give to them. Establishing funding for the folks and the causes that need it the most in society is a very important endeavor. It goes right to the heart of the age-old words that tell all of us to “serve the least of these.” So please excuse me if I politely disagree with the people who use the charity front to not really serve the downtrodden but rather to serve themselves.

Take for a quick example Lebron James. Four years ago he staged the most self-centered television special in history, The Decision. Everything leading up to the egofest and everything during the catastrophic special itself oozed of arrogance and superiority. However, in a failed attempt to try to spin what he was really doing and salvage his reputation he claimed that he was doing the show for charity. ESPN allowed the Lebron Camp to sell commercial spots during the special and some of those proceeds (as far as we know) went to a single charity of Lebron’s choice. What King James did was never once in the name of good will toward others.

But very recently two fresh examples have come up, coincidentally both in athletics as well.

My new hometown has a Minor League Baseball team (Single A) called the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I have gone to a couple games and have had a splendid time, the organization does a great job. But I am skeptical of a stunt the general manager has planned for Thursday night. At the end of last week the front office challenged the GM to get a prostate exam during the seventh inning stretch of Thursday night’s game while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” if something specific happened: The Facebook page of a young child battling brain cancer had to reach 10,000 likes. The hope was that increased Facebook likes would result in more donations for her care.

Of course such an outlandish proposition garnered national media attention and the Facebook page already has well over 10,000 likes. The GM will get a prostate exam on Thursday night. My problem? For one, the whole exam during the seventh inning is down right crude. Secondly, the effort seems much more focused on the Pelicans and the GM rather than the poor kid battling a terrible disease. Don’t get me wrong, I love what the Pelicans’ organization does as a whole but I think they could have obtained 10,000 likes for the Facebook page through different means.

(Side Note: I am all for doing outlandish, non-crude things to shamelessly promote yourself but you have to be honest about it. You need to admit that you are in it for yourself and you must not use a charity to try to put a different spin on it. I wrote about a glorious example of self-promotion eight months ago).

The second example comes from the NFL world. Chris Kluwe was a punter for the Minnesota Vikings. He ended up getting cut. Not going down without a fight, Kluwe accused the Vikings of discrimination because of his views on same-sex marriage and gay rights. The Vikings took the allegations seriously and launched an investigation. They issued a report, suspended a coach, and made a $10,000 donation to a LGBT charity. They did this even when most believed that the punter was cut for his playing performance rather than his views.

However the concessions didn’t satisfy Kluwe, who has enjoyed great publicity over the last months. Seeking to further his time in the spotlight he has filed a 10 million dollar lawsuit against the Vikings. He has stated that he will donate the money to LGBT charities. Come on. If you have followed this saga you know it is not about gay rights and it is not about charity…it is about Chris Kluwe. He will do anything to drag this episode on to maximize his time on the pedestal, even if it means trying to act like he is doing it for a noble cause.

We just need to be true with ourselves and others. If we are genuinely doing something for a charity that is cool but if we are using one to try to make our self-initiatives look better we need to re-evaluate. If you think about it, most people who contribute to charities want to keep it low key to begin with. Don’t Blink.

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